{Play} Colorful Ice Cube Painting

September 15, 2011 in All Posts, Play, Toddler Activities

WARNING:  This project is not for the faint of art!

If the thought of messes, stains, vibrant color and irrepressible squealing makes you squirm, stop reading here and hurry over to last week’s post on Water Painting, which is a completely fuss- and mess-free project you and your kids will love just as much as this one.

But if you still can’t resist the bright, wet temptation of this activity, try making the ice cubes with watered down watercolors or washable paints.  Food coloring is an option, too, but will stain your child’s skin temporarily, while actual paint will wash off (including acrylic paint).  To go totally natural and non-toxic, you could also do this activity with intensely pigmented fruits and vegetables, like beets and strawberries.


  • ice cube tray
  • acrylic paint (or crushed fruits and vegetables, watercolors, washable paint or food coloring)
  • small craft sticks (or old popsicle sticks, wooden ice cream spoons, straws cut in half, chopsticks cut in half)
  • paper or other drawing surface

Step 1

Squirt approximately 1 teaspoon of paint into each ice cube opening.  More paint equals more vivid and opaque color, while less paint lends a more translucent look.

Step 2

Fill the rest of each ice cube compartment with water.  Stir until thoroughly mixed and let sit for a few minutes.

Step 3

Freeze the colored cubes.  When the ice cubes are halfway frozen, insert a small craft stick or other object that can serve as a handle.  It’s perfectly fine to omit the handles – your little one will love holding the colored cubes in his hand to paint, too, and that’s how this activity eventually ends!

Step 4


In order to save our deck, I rolled out some brown packing paper from an Amazon shipment we had recently received to make a long canvas.  I also laid out pieces of cardstock for Jane to paint.

At first Jane was hesitant to use the ice cubes and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.  I just waited and watched.

It didn’t take her long for to figure out a few techniques and manipulate the ice cubes to make different impressions with varying intensity:

When the ice cubes started to melt a bit, Jane discovered that holding the ice cubes over the paper made colorful paint splashes.  Then she worked on color mixing to create new hues:

When the ice cubes really started melting and breaking into little clumps, the handprints started (and we all know how much Jane loves making handprints):

After the handprints, we reached the height of the mess and color chaos!  Jane decided to paint the ice cube tray itself:

With all the squishy paint covering her hands, she came up with the idea of lacing her fingers and squeezing her palms together to make awesome paint fleck art.  Of course, it all culminated in the ultimate sensory mess:  fingerpainting.
What a beautiful mess!

Eat your heart out, Matisse.

Happy Painting!

LEARN!  Colors, manual dexterity, material manipulation, fine motor skills, texture, science (states of matter)

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Chrissy – who has written posts on The Outlaw Mom® Blog – Creative Living in a Conventional World.

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